Grace - Choices Participant

Grace was invited to join Choices through our partner, West Cumbria Carers.

“I vividly recall receiving that letter introducing me to the Choices initiative and inviting me to take part. I had no idea where partnering with Choices might lead but, at that time, the viable options available to me were extremely limited and not remotely attractive, so really it was a no-brainer to accept! Time and my unfolding journey with Choices, would prove this to be one of the best and most significant decisions, I have ever made.”

Choices partnership with Grace began after an active caring role of several years’ duration ended; age 60, she now found herself completely at a loss:

“I cared for my ageing and ailing mother 24/7 for several years, and whilst each situation is unique, anyone who has any experience of this terrain knows how demanding, gruelling and depleting it can be. By the time Mum had to unavoidably transfer into residential care, all of my own reserves – physical, emotional, mental – had been thoroughly exhausted; there was simply nothing left, nothing left for me!

I was drained and no answers were forthcoming to pressing questions that demanded attention: What now? What do I do now? Where am I going to go? (Mum’s house was up-for-sale to help pay care costs) What am I going to do? How am I going to do it? How am I going to support myself? My physical strength and stamina, confidence and self-belief, optimism and hope for the future were as low as my bank balance! I felt alone, very anxious and overwhelmed by what I was facing.”

Keyworkers quickly identified that Grace was an extremely articulate, resourceful and reflective person but lacked focus and direction for her own life. Keyworker, Helene Wickens helped Grace explore and identify what was important to her (key life values) and from this work coalesced the clarity and desire to retrain and work in horticulture, something Grace had always enjoyed but never previously considered for employment.

With clear focus and direction, Choices was now able to help Grace to take those first steps in that new direction. Choices helped Grace secure a place on a p/t training course, which will deliver a City & Guilds Level 2 Diploma in Work-Based Horticulture qualification, and provided the funding for this.

Keyworker, Rachel Hannah worked with Grace to update and produce variant CVs and covering letters, as well as “get-up-to-date” with current methods of sourcing employment such as jobsites and social media; they also had fun practising interview techniques which helped build confidence and self-belief. To date, Grace has attended 3 interviews within her desired sector and is awaiting news; is enjoying her horticultural course and has plans to build on this with further training and qualifications once this course concludes.

Choices offers a holistic and individually-tailored support programme; Grace identified specific needs and the service was able to meet these by funding several sessions with a counsellor to provide needed emotional support; Leisure Centre membership to allow Grace to rebuild physical strength and stamina and financial counselling to help her gain a clearer understanding of what benefits were available to her.

Keyworker, Rachel Hannah said “Working with Grace has been an absolute pleasure and it has been a joy to see the positive change in Grace after the past few months”.

What does this positive change mean for Grace?
We asked her,
“Choices is all about helping people make real, life-affirming personal choices and supporting them in the process of actualising those choices. Through my journey with Choices, I came to realise that despite appearances to the contrary, I still could make a fundamental choice at this stage of life, age 60, to bloom if I wanted to; that it was not too late, not if I was programmed to be a Late Bloomer.

Choices provided me with comprehensive, substantial help and a level of holistic and genuine support such as I have never previously experienced. This has been no pre-determined ‘one size fits all’ kind of programme which I have been required to adapt to. Throughout and every step of the way, it has all been free choice, entirely voluntary and without imposed pressure; an individual journey shared with an amazing team of people.

In just 7 short months we have journeyed far: for me, there has been laughter and also many times when the road has been “muddy, rough and challenging”. To have had such a group of extraordinarily kind, genuine, compassionate people walking alongside, encouraging and supporting me and unfailingly saying ‘Oh, we can help with that!’ has been astonishing to me.

‘Thank you’ is too small a word to convey all the Choices team has given and meant to me. Much of it cannot be quantified but is nonetheless real, life-changing and enduring. They have been kind, patient, accepting, non-judgemental and generous with their time and support – always and without fail – recognising that it takes time to recover physical, emotional, mental strength and stamina. Their presence has encouraged and strengthened my spirit when I have felt isolated or despondent and enabled me to keep going and not quit when it felt impossible to ‘breakthrough’.

The work I did with Helene in determining my personal values was foundational; seemingly simple, it proved to be one of the most valuable and profound tasks I have ever undertaken and continues to inform and help me assess my life choices and how I choose to ‘show up in the world’. Largely as a result of this work, I was able to see for myself, new and good direction that felt an authentic fit with my values, and that I also had the inner resources of courage, integrity and determination to live out my values.

Choices seemed to believe in me and see what I could not see for myself: they reflected back what they saw and so helped me slowly grow in self-belief and self-worth, when I had lost all sight of such. As a result of the work I have done with Rachel, I have been able to build greater self-confidence and self-reliance, recognising that I have all the inner resources needed and can also learn and acquire new skills to be able to secure viable, paid employment in the 21st century, and so support myself.

There’s so much more that I could say but perhaps I can sum it up with this: now that I actually think about this for the first time, I honestly cannot think of a single negative – not one – in all of my time and experience with the Choices team.; and that, I think, is quite an extraordinary and incredible thing to be able to say.

I’m no one special, really I am not; I just said “Yes!” to that initial invitation and began a journey with Choices.

I shall always be grateful for this amazing opportunity that has been so freely and generously given and for being able to share this part of my life journey with a wonderful, unforgettable group of people.

What a gift and blessing this has been to me!”